Chengdu was never on our original hit list. However after chatting to Sarah and Danielle in Shanghai about their trip and the promise of a local to show us around we squeezed in a stop over. The deal breaker was the chance to get up close with pandas of all shapes sizes and colours- yes colours. Chengdu is one of the homes of red pandas.
We opted for the overnight sleeper from Xian to maximise our time. Due to the last minute booking, all soft sleepers were sold out. This meant we would experience our 1st Chinese hard sleeper.
A little apprehensive we boarded the train with our packed lunch – we are pros at these overnight trains now! The hard sleeper is not hard beds but an open carriage which sleeps up to 66 people on 3 high bunk beds, same bedding as the soft sleepers. The carriages are no larger than the 4 bed private soft sleeps so the head room on the bunks are minimal, reducing on each tier. Luckily we bagged a bottom and middle. This meant we could just about sit up without banging our heads.
We settled in, got to know our neighbours who were quiet and content playing candy crush on their mobile devices. As the clock struck 10pm we were put to bed, literally. The train guard closed all the curtains and turned the lights out. Maybe we would get some sleep after all.John, the ‘gentleman’ took the middle bunk for sleeping.
Like an alarm clock the guard pulled back the curtains at 8am to wake us. Although a little hot we slept relatively well on the train.
Our first stop was the People’s Park, the name was fitting. The people of Chengdu own this park, we witnessed dancing, aerobics classes, opera singing, badminton matches and calligraphy drawing. We enjoyed wandering through the park and most importantly people watching. Chinese parks are one of the most interesting places for this.
That evening we explored the river front of the city and enjoyed some sushi on the new LKF District in Chengdu before being treated to the film Man On Fire back at the hostel.
The next morning we went to the Pandas (see post here)
Back in Chengdu we met Anna, a friend of Sarah and Danielle at the local Green Ran Taoism Temple (Wenshu Temple). It was a huge temple with lovely grounds but not often visited by western tourists or tour groups- lucky us! Anna brought us to outdoor tea shop inside the temple. We enjoyed a bottomless cup of tea each while we chatted about China and her new job as an official tour guide. It was lovely to talk to a local about life in China and she was great at explaining traditions and introducing us to the locals.
Next it was time for a whistle wind tour of the city before our evening flight to Lijiang. In 2 hours Anna whisked us through the local park, through a maze of streets and alleys full of local shops, temples, cafés and street sellers (Jinli Ancient Streets) She was full of interesting facts and funny stories, it felt like we were visiting an old friend.
Although it was a short trip we both loved Chengdu and wished we had spent longer there. Highly recommend it on your China hit list and we can provide Anna’s details if anyone would like a fantastic local guide.